VIENNA, 20 January 2023 - ‘’If online conferences were a frozen pizza, in-person conferences would be like eating at a Napolitan restaurant,” was the simile used by the organizers of this year’s Model United Nations event at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), Lorenz Probst and Wolfgang Gruber.
For the first time since the pandemic, 123 students of the University of Vienna and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU Wien), convened in-person at the UN Headquarters in Vienna to simulate the Committee on Sustainable Energy of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The students’ task was to negotiate an international agreement on Energy Justice, titled the “Vienna Agreement on Energy Transition”, culminating in a two-day COP-style summit from 19 to 20 January.
This year’s event was made even more special by the English live-subtitling and the student-interpreters who orally translated the conference into six languages: English, Spanish, Russian, German, Italian, and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. For one of these interpreters the highlight was to “be in a booth at an official UN building after almost three years of online interpreting”.
The students of 19 different nationalities were greeted by remarkable keynote speeches. The United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Director, Martin Nesirky, the Austrian Ambassador to the UN (Vienna), Gabriela Sellner, and the Associate Programme Management Officer at United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Sabine McCallum all stressed the importance of agreeing on a common denominator, justice, and ambition. In this vein, Ambassador Sellner said her hope that all the present students would become “Ambassadors of Multilateralism”.
Simultaneously, another academic event - the Regional Academy of the United Nations (RAUN) - took place at the VIC. Under the quest for “A common approach to leaving no one behind: how to reduce inequalities through innovation,” Master and PhD students presented their research on UN-related topics, includingArtificial Intelligence, digital safety of journalists, mis- and disinformation, youth participation in organized crime prevention, and school-related gender-based violence. The keynote speakers UNIS Director Nesirky and Monika Froehler, Chief Executive Officer of the Ban Ki-Moon Centre, noted how “spot on” the students were in regard to pressing UN matters.